Situated in the county of East Sussex, about seven miles from the coast and on the edge of the South Downs, is the market town of Hailsham – population circa 20,000.
Early in 2015, Tomango was commissioned to design and develop a new website for the town council to give residents easy access to council services and information about the town.
From the start, the brief was clear. Hailsham Town Council wanted a website that was accessible to all, and embraced the very essence of good design; something that didn’t just look good, but was easy and intuitive to use, regardless of the device being used or any impairments the user might have.
“We asked Tomango to produce a more user friendly and accessible website for Hailsham residents and were impressed with the new site and their excellent work from the outset.
Implementation was fast and smooth, including the responses to some of the inevitable course corrections required in every project.”Terry Hall
Communications Officer, Hailsham Town Council
Using the award-winning Gov.uk site as inspiration, the council really wanted to raise the bar in terms of what a local town council website could do for its residents;
- It should present a positive, politically-neutral image of the town and the town council.
- It should enable residents to easily find information about council services.
- It should provide details of any news or events relevant to Hailsham.
- It should also be search-engine friendly, fully responsive and easy for council staff to update in-house.
This is just the sort of challenge we like.
But of course the real challenge was how we were going to deliver this wishlist AND make the site accessible to the very highest standards.
Accessibility is often incorrectly described as “making the site work for people with disabilities”. Although this is undoubtedly an important step towards the accessible goal, there’s so much more to it that can’t be achieved with a simple checklist of disabilities that need to be accounted for.
Accessibility is all about access. It’s about choosing to make a website inclusive, flexible and open so that all information can be presented to the user in a format that’s appropriate to them.
Understanding this need for universal access and then applying it to all aspects of a project is the key to creating an accessible website.
Instead of focusing on what people might lack, we planned, designed and developed features that are flexible for all users and the environments they find themselves in.
Calling on our previous experience working on projects like VCES, we knew how far would could go with the design, and were delighted to get such a positive view from the council as to what they believed a good website should look like.
Everyone was firmly on board with the direction we wanted to take this project.
At all stages – during planning, design, build and testing – we were constantly going back to the accessibility part of the brief. At each stage we were checking – does this still work for all users? And if not, is there a graceful fall-back we can put in place?
We also spent a great deal of time considering the methods of navigating the site, and the hierarchy of content. It was vital that users could quickly and easily find whatever they were looking for.
And there was a lot of content; around 375 pages and 1,020 downloadable documents that needed to be either moved or created and styled.
The end result is a website that ticks all the boxes of the challenging brief we were set. It looks fantastic – on all devices – and works brilliantly for all users, regardless of how they access the site.